The Prisons (Carceri d’invenzione or Imaginary Prisons) is a series of 16 prints by the Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi in the 18th century. They depict enormous subterranean vaults with stairs and mighty machines.
In the second publishing, some of the illustrations appear to have been edited to contain (likely deliberate) impossible geometries … Piranesi’s dark and seemingly endless staircases and blocked passages prefigure M. C. Escher‘s images with endless stairs such as his 1960 lithograph Ascending and Descending,
“Piranesi” is the title of Susanna Clarke’s wonderful new book. The novel is populated with mathematicians and scientists — but I don’t want to give too much away. It’s both charming and thrilling, and like these drawings poses questions about prisons and imprisonment that aren’t easy to answer.